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Goodbye to all that

Essendon's Dyson Heppell.

Essendon's Dyson Heppell. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

The AFL is used to being unable to please much of its public all the time, or in some cases, any time. And never is that more the case than when it comes to fixturing.

An uneven draw, in which teams play only five rivals twice and the other dozen just once, creates a virtual handicap system in itself. Throw in contractual obligations to various venues for certain ''blockbusters'' and the difficulty factor increases again.

These days, in addition, there's the matter of the mid-season bye, which, judging by the club and player reaction currently being assessed before it goes to the AFL Commission, seems more than likely to become two byes per club in 2014 rather than the current one.

And that could open a whole new can of worms - for a fan base that has been getting itchy feet these past couple of weeks, reduced to six games per round, and more importantly, the same clubs agitating for an extra week off.

Because recent history indicates strongly that the matter of exactly when you have your break is significant, with the 2011 season - when with 17 teams at least one club per round had a week off - providing an interesting case study.

When Gold Coast entered the competition (the year before Greater Western Sydney), the AFL entered territory it hadn't known (an uneven number of teams) since Adelaide became part of the AFL in 1991, and for four years gave us a 15-team league. It decided to stagger the byes for 2011 as best it could, in a 24-round season having 19 rounds in which just one team had a break, and another five in which three sides sat it out.

What became apparent was that to have the break around mid-season proved perfect, but early on or late in the piece was a significant disadvantage. Indeed, over the first 13 rounds, and 14 games in which a side coming off a week's break took on a team that had played through, the side that had had the weekend off won just two.

That changed dramatically, however, in the cold and wet of late June and July. Between rounds 14 and 18, of seven games played between a rested side and one that played through, the team with the rest won six. And that was turned on its head again in the lead-up to finals, when the break only seemed to disrupt any momentum. From round 19 to 24, there were eight such games, the team that had played through earning seven wins over sides that had spelled.

They're pretty lopsided counts. And ones which the bye formula these past two seasons - of three weeks of just six games between rounds 11 and 13 - seem to have addressed.

Last year, there were 12 games played during and immediately after the bye rounds in which a side coming off a week's break faced up to one that had played on, the results an even split of 6-6. And not one of them was a result that didn't go the way form indicated it should.

The fixture also managed to minimise the lopsidedness of preparation, with several sides both coming off the byes playing each other.

Last week, there were four games involving a rested side and one that had played on, with three victories to those that had spelled. Again, none of those results was unexpected, though Hawthorn's strong finish against Carlton, and the Western Bulldogs' much better second half against Collingwood after looking likely to be humiliated indicated they'd both appreciated the break.

From an aesthetics point of view, meanwhile, the AFL has always been on a hiding to nothing when it comes to mid-season.

When eight games were the norm, it tried virtually every combination of games over a two-week period. There were several years with either a 5-3 or 6-2 split. In 2004, it scheduled just the one game in week two of break-time, mainly in reaction to the outcry after the previous year, in which there was a complete week's break for all 16 teams. That is something those now moaning about the allegedly dull past couple of weeks would do well to remember. And when it comes to maintaining interest in the AFL competition overall, the past couple of weeks have hardly been duds.

Indeed, AFL general manager of broadcasting, scheduling and legal affairs, Simon Lethlean, points out that last Saturday night's Essendon-Gold Coast clash at Etihad Stadium was the first Saturday night game this season to attract more than a million TV viewers.

''We think the three rounds of six games is the best model for maintaining the momentum of the season, better than the other combinations we've tried,'' he says.

''There's a lot of things to consider, requirements like two clubs not playing each other twice before round 11, in amongst all the other factors, like venue availability, player welfare and club requests, and in which we can still minimise the inequities.''

If the AFL Commission does go with the push for two byes in 2014, the most likely solution is to start the season a week earlier by scaling back the duration of the pre-season NAB Cup.

While cricket obligations have previously limited the number of venues that can be used in March, AFL football's involvement with Adelaide Oval and the new lights at Geelong's Simonds Stadium have offered some greater flexibility.

If the two byes are to be introduced, the most likely arrangement would be two lots of the current mid-season schedule, with three lots of six matches to be played between rounds 7-9 and again between rounds 14-16.

But if the clubs and players lobbying for an extra week off win their campaign, they'd be well advised to then bone up on the recent history of the impact of the bye on AFL football. Because the numbers say it's not just getting a rest that counts, but just as much when you get it.


  • Particularly irritating are players who call for a shorter H&A^ season, with some demanding a 17- or 18-game season, yet never accompany such demands with suggestions of what commensurate paycut they would happily take. (Nor how they would productively fill in even more spare time.)

    Nor any inkling of how corporate support for the game would be cut back, let alone the cruel decrease in the pleasures of football to millions of members, barrackers and fans.

    Stop sooking and grow up. Or eff off.

    ^ Don't mind "regular season" now and then for a bit of variety in sentence or paragraph structure, but our term is "Home and Away season". (And, no, this observation is NOT predicated on some brain-dead PC anti-Americanism.)

    40 Degrees S
    Date and time
    June 23, 2013, 2:09PM
    • Back again - forgot to ask this.

      Whose bright idea was it to start AFL matches within 30 minutes of sunset in the week of the shortest day of the year? What part of "maximising attendances" does this drongo not understand?

      Leonard Colquhoun
      Date and time
      June 23, 2013, 4:19PM
      • Whilst only some clubs pay each other twice, the competion will never be even/equal....always going to be lopsided!

        Get rid of NAB Cup or what ever it is called, play each other twice, the comp will then be even, clubs can also start resting players....PS there supposed to be fit anyway, not all payers play 4 quarters anyway.

        If players want time off/byes, then start bringing in performance rates, or penalties for non-performance.

        Date and time
        June 23, 2013, 6:11PM
        Comments are now closed

        HuffPost Australia

        AFL 2015

        Round 1
        Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
        CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
        Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
        MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
        SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
        BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
        WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
        Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
        STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
        ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
        FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
        Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
        HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 2
        Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
        WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
        Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
        RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
        GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
        COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
        GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
        PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
        Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
        GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
        ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
        NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 3
        Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
        Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
        CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
        ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
        SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
        NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
        BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
        Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
        HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
        GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
        WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 4
        Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
        RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
        Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
        STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
        ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
        GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
        PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
        FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
        Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
        BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
        GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
        WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 5
        Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
        CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
        Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
        RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
        SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
        GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
        NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
        WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
        Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
        MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
        STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
        ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 6
        Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
        COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
        Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
        NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
        WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
        GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
        GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
        MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
        FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
        Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
        CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
        PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 7
        Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
        ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
        Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
        ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
        HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
        CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
        SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
        WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
        Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
        WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
        RIC 105vs COL 100 Stats
        BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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        Round 8
        Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
        GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
        Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
        STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
        GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
        GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
        HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
        FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
        Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
        ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
        MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
        PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 9
        Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
        Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
        HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
        MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
        WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
        RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
        ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
        Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
        BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
        COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
        WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 10
        Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
        FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
        Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
        CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
        GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
        ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
        PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
        Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
        GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
        NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
        STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
        Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
        MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 11
        Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
        PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
        Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
        GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
        WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
        NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
        Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
        COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
        STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 12
        Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
        ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
        Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
        RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
        Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
        CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
        GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
        WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
        Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
        GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 13
        Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
        FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
        Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
        Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
        HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
        BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
        STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
        Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
        CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 14
        Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
        Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
        COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
        Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
        RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
        GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
        WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
        MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
        Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
        ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
        ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
        FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 15
        Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
        PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
        Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
        RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
        Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
        ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
        WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
        NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
        WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
        Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
        GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
        HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
        BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 16
        Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
        NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
        Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
        GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
        GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
        COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
        SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
        FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
        Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
        MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
        PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
        STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 17
        Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
        CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
        Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
        GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
        ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
        RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
        ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
        BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
        Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
        WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
        MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
        WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
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        Round 18
        Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
        HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
        Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
        GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
        COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
        SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
        CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
        GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
        Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
        PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
        ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
        FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 19
        Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
        ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
        Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
        COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
        WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
        BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
        GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
        WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
        Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
        MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
        GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
        STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 20
        Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
        SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
        Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
        ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
        NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
        PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
        GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
        BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
        Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
        RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
        WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
        FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 21
        Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
        HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
        Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
        COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
        GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
        GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
        STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
        ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
        Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
        NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
        CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
        WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 22
        Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
        GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
        Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
        GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
        HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
        NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
        ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
        GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
        Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
        ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
        STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
        FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 23
        Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
        RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
        Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
        GEE 119vs ADE 80 Report Stats
        BRI 130vs WBU 122 Report Stats
        PTA 122vs FRE 53 Report Stats
        HAW 113vs CAR 56 Report Stats
        SYD 127vs GCF 64 Report Stats
        WCE 125vs STK 30 Report Stats
        Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
        MEL 103vs GWS 77 Report Stats
        COL 92vs ESS 95 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 24
        Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
        WCE 96vs HAW 64 Report Stats
        Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
        FRE 69vs SYD 60 Report Stats
        WBU 102vs ADE 109 Report Stats
        Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
        RIC 88vs NTH 105 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 25
        Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
        HAW 135vs ADE 61 Report Stats
        Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
        SYD 51vs NTH 77 Report Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 26
        Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
        FRE 67vs HAW 94 Report Stats
        Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
        WCE 80vs NTH 55 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 27
        Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
        HAW 107vs WCE 61 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        AFL 2015
        Overall standings
        Team P W L D % Pts
        Fremantle 22 17 5 0 118.73 68
        West Coast Eagles 22 16 5 1 148.22 66
        Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
        Sydney Swans 22 16 6 0 127.12 64
        Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
        Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
        Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
        North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
        View all

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